Second special call for COVID-19 projects

Purpose of the COVID-19 call

The measures that were and are still being taken to contain the COVID-19 pandemic have a great impact on people, families, businesses and, by extension, society as a whole. Also in the longer term, the pandemic is expected to impact personal well-being, the economic fabric, politics, education and training, the functioning of society, etc. In order to anticipate and limit the consequences of the pandemic, research and new knowledge are essential. Scientifically underpinned policy support measures and practical solutions emerging from research projects can provide society as a whole with more effective ways of dealing with the consequences of the epidemic.

With the aim of meeting this need, the FWO organises a second call for COVID-19 related project proposals focusing exclusively on academic research that requires short-term funding, because it needs to be carried out in the framework of the current pandemic or its immediate aftermath and therefore does not fall within the scope of other FWO subsidy channels. The short time span and succinct application process reflects the urgent and temporary character of this research. Even though basic research is involved, the results of the proposed research should be conducive to supporting policy and society in coping more effectively with the consequences of the pandemic. Another important aspect is the relevance of the findings for any subsequent (phase of the) pandemic and/or the exit (strategy).

Budget

The total available budget is €2.5 million, including 6% overhead for the host institution.

With a maximum budget of €250,000 per project, the total budget for this call, with which both the project costs and their overheads must be financed, allows for the funding of about nine projects. Depending on the number of proposals, the success rate may therefore be low. Since the necessity and the urgency of projects under this extraordinary call are exclusion criteria for applications, applicants are urged to only use this call if both of these requirements can be met. For other applications reference will be made to the annual calls under the permanent support programmes.

Definition of the research scope

Eligible areas of research

All areas of science can make a relevant contribution to the objectives pursued. Both fundamental and strategic basic research can be funded within this call, including urgent data gathering. Both interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research is possible. Extra (top-up) budget can be requested for ongoing research (whether pre-funded or not) within this topic. Applications for this call must focus on COVID-15 related research topics, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • personal well-being;
  • legal issues;
  • economic issues;
  • political issues;
  • social issues;
  • education and training;
  • clinical and care issues;

Project duration

12 months. The research funds remain accessible in accordance with the regulations for fundamental research projects, but implementation of the project proposal should normally be feasible within one year.

Evaluation criteria

  • Necessity and urgency of the research (including the possibility of conducting the research in this phase of the pandemic), its contribution to the envisaged solution and social implementability and its impact in the short to medium term on managing the social consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Added value as compared to the current state-of-the-art as well as synergy and complementarity with relevant national and international initiatives
  • Quality of the research (study design and methodology, work plan, budget)
  • Expertise and track record of the consortium (including with reference to immediate start-up)

Eligibility and application conditions

Proposals must be made by a consortium (i.e. two or more eligible institutions) to increase their likelihood of impact.

  • Supervisors

The conditions for eligibility of supervisors-spokespersons and (co-supervisors) and their institutions are identical to those for fundamental research projects (Art. 10 and 11 of the regulations for fundamental research projects).

Additional organisations that are exceptionally allowed as partner under this call must be represented in a project consortium by a co-supervisor who holds at least an appointment at postdoctoral level within the organisation.

  • Institutions

All applications must be submitted by minimum two main host institutions, as set out in Art. 7 of the regulations for fundamental research projects, with one participant acting as supervisor-spokesperson with their institution as main host institution of the project.

In addition to the institutions considered eligible in accordance with the Regulations of the Research Fund - Flanders governing fundamental research projects, the following can also participate in a project consortium for this call:

  • Flemish hospitals belonging to one of the following categories:
    1. University hospitals
    2. Non-university hospitals with an academic character (approved list)
    3. Non-university hospitals with no academic character that were eligible for previous TBM calls;
  • Federal or Flemish government agency;
  • Flemish or non-Flemish research centre.
  • Budget per proposal

Each consortium can apply for a maximum budget of €250,000, excluding 6% overhead.

Type and maximum amount of eligible costs are aligned with the specific objectives of this call. The budget can be freely allocated over these cost items. Payment, monitoring and follow-up are governed by the provisions of the Regulations of the Research Foundation - Flanders governing fundamental research projects.

Operating costs

  • Subcontracting costs
  • Other operating costs (reagents, computer time, interviewers, etc.)

Staff costs

  • If necessary and justified. The urgent nature and the duration of the projects calls for immediately deployable staff.

International collaboration

  • Maximum 20% of the budget can be allocated to a non-Flemish partner via the main host institution. This involves the signing of a cooperation agreement on the ownership and usage rights to the project results and the associated liability.
  • Submission conditions
    • The supervisor-spokesperson enters their personal details (under the button “Manage your personal data”) and completes the COVID-19 application form (under the button “Create a new application”) via their account in the e-portal. The project partners must be specified in the application form, but their personal details need not be provided.
    • Each supervisor-spokesperson of an application must pre-register by 24 August 2020, 17:00. This pre-registration is made by completing the following fields on the application form in the e-portal by the aforementioned date:
      • General tab:
        • the project title in Dutch and English;
        • an abstract in Dutch and English;
      • Host Institutions - Supervisor tab: the names of the applicants and their host institutions;
      • Peer Review tab:
        • the fundamental expert panel with expertise in the proposed research topic
        • discipline codes (up to level 4)
        • key words

Pre-registration is required for the application to be valid!

    • The (Research Coordination Unit (RCU) of the) host institution receives the project application within the time limit set by the main host institution. The latter submits the applications to the FWO through the e-portal by 9 September 2020, 17:00.
    • The project application is submitted in English based on the layout and the page limits (4 pages) specified in the project application template.
    • The FWO regulations concerning ethical aspects of the research also apply in their entirety to this call. If ethical recommendations were already made for previous research that also apply to the research covered by the application (such as for top-up of ongoing research), these will suffice. The ethics questionnaires may be submitted after the project award. However, the rule continues to apply that any research that is subject to positive ethical advice can only be started up if it has effectively received such positive advice.
    • The consortium undertakes to utilise the project results obtained with the financial support of the FWO to achieve maximum added value for the (inter)national research community. To this end, the consortium must, among other things, share the gathered research data (open data) and make publications widely accessible (open access) in accordance with the FAIR principles and obviously in compliance with relevant legislation (including GDPR). The consortium further undertakes to take any other reasonably feasible measures to maximise knowledge dissemination.

Evaluation procedure

  • Applications are evaluated within the fundamental research expert panel specified by the applicants; the evaluators can be recruited both from the project panel and from the fellowship panel for the relevant discipline (cluster).
  • Three experts per panel are expected to review the files assigned to them and to indicate how well the proposal meets each of the score criteria in their opinion. The average of these individual scores is the starting point for a consolidation of the 3 expert assessments.
  • Upon receipt of all evaluations and rankings from the expert panels, an overall ranking is drawn up by the FWO’s Cross-Domain Panel (CDP), whose composition may vary as a function of the applications received.
  • Based on the final ranking and the budgetary space, the Board of Trustees subsequently decides on the support to be granted. Partial support is possible and depends on the assessment whether the remaining amount is likely to have any impact on achieving milestones within the project proposal.

Call timetable

  • July 2020: call launch
  • Monday, 24 August 2020, 17:00: pre-notification of applications
  • Wednesday, 9 September 2020, 17:00: submission deadline for applications – the internal deadline of the host institution will be earlier!
  • Wednesday, 28 October 2020: decision of the Board of Trustees
  • 30 October 2020: start of projects*

*By start of projects is meant that researchers can start their work under the project as soon as they have been notified of the award decision. Costs incurred in this respect may be charged to the project. The agreement will follow later. 

For questions or comments related to this call, please refer to covidoproep@fwo.be .